Chapter 59: Step to Amends
"What?" asked Ranveer in a shocked voice. Ishaani had a decisive look on her face, yet her voice remained gentle.
"I want to meet Maa. It’s been four years since I'll seen her, far less heard her voice. I want to see her." Ranveer looked worried and Ishaani could sense his discomfort with her wish. He replied lamely.
"But you're pregnant." Ishaani cocked up her eyebrows in skeptical confusion and Ranveer shook his head, knowing that the conversation was clearly not going the way he expected it to go. Ishaani stared at him keenly before speaking in a blank voice.
"So?" Ranveer sighed before speaking carefully.
"Look, you and Falguni Maa haven't left things on a proper note. I don't want you to stress. It's not good for the baby as well. I don't want anything that distresses you or the baby." Ishaani nodded her head, but her tone remained resolute.
"I understand your concern. I do. But trust me, it's about time we both did this. We both have a lot of amends to make to our families," said Ishaani, while Ranveer looked more distressed by the minute.
"Ishaani..." Ishaani looked up at him and looked at him beseechingly. Ranveer tore his gaze away from her and Ishaani spoke honestly.
"I know. You are scared. Even I am. But we need to do this. We have been pushing this behind for far too long. It’s about time we faced this and set things right." Ranveer remained lost in thought for a few minutes before he replied with the only thing he could fathom.
"I don't know what to say." Ishaani knew that Ranveer was now pondering over her request and rubbed the back of his palm soothingly.
"Just give this a thought. It's all I'm saying. Our families need to know about what's happening in our lives as well and they need to be a part of it."
"If that's the case, why haven't you spoken to Falguni Maa after you resolved things with me?" Ishaani shut her eyes painfully before she spoke with regret.
"I have never denied what I've done four years back. I did it to save you and I was ready to go to all lengths. But in that process, I sacrificed the reputation of our families as well. I jeopardized their wellbeing, state of mind, everything. They are bound to be upset with me. But now that our baby is on the way, I don't want to deprive our child from the love of their family. I don't want our families to be insignificant in its life. This is important to me, to all of us."
"Ishaani, why don't you see it? This may very well undo everything that we have worked towards so far. And yes, I admit that you screwed up several lives with what you did. You have hurt Baa and Falguni Maa, they have full right to remain upset, but I expected better from your brothers. When you revealed the truth to them, I expected them to behave better than that." Ishaani could see the hurt and anger in Ranveer's expression. She sighed hopelessly.
"Ranveer, let it go. Our lives have all separated by the fork we came across four years back. It doesn't matter now. I just want to set things right with our families." Ranveer gave her an irritated look, hoping that his next point would make Ishaani reconsider her decision.
"What about your father?" Ishaani's hopeful look now changed into a frown.
"What about him?"
"Ishaani, are you ready to face him?" Ishaani looked at him curiously, before she posed a question of her own.
"Why does that matter?"
"Because he has been living with Falguni Maa and Baa. So if you are to meet them, you will have to meet him as well." Ishaani looked at him uncertainly for a moment, before she smiled at him.
"So be it. Now that he has married my mother, I would especially like to have a conversation with him." Ranveer let out a shocked gasp, his face turning a flustered red. Ishaani's smile broadened.
"Wait, who said they married?" Ishaani rolled her eyes at him, and Ranveer coughed awkwardly.
"Ranveer, just because you were smart enough to avoid speaking it out loud, it doesn't mean that I'm stupid enough to not understand it. Maa would never live with a stranger like that, even though it meant her being homeless. I figured out as much. Besides, Maa and he shared a certain rapport, much more like companionship, even when she refused to see eye to eye with him." Ranveer scowled, disappointed that his gimmick was a failure. He spoke in exasperation.
"Yes, they bonded well in the months after you came over her, or after your sentence, as Maa told me." Ishaani noticed the bitterness in Ranveer's tone at the last part of the statement and sighed.
"Admit it, you just don't want to go home because you resent what happened four years back."
"Don't we all?" Ishaani gave him a deadpan look and Ranveer flinched under her gaze.
"I meant that you resent our families for making it so difficult for us."
"So what if I do?" Ishaani stared at Ranveer intently, noticing some other emotion lurking through his eyes apart from hurt. Realizing what it was a few moments later, she gave him a sympathetic look.
"Wait a minute. That's not just it now, is it?" Ranveer looked confused at the sudden turn of the conversation.
"What do you mean?"
"You are guilty to go back home." Ranveer's eyes widened at being caught so off-guard. He stuttered for a few moments before all come-backs failed him. Finally finding the correct set of words, he spoke defensively.
"Did you just hear yourself? You are contradicting what you said a minute ago." Ishaani shook her head, a meaningful smile on her face.
"No. A minute ago, I spoke half the truth. Now, I spoke the whole truth." Ranveer twitched under her gaze and spoke at his hands angrily.
"How can I resent and be guilty at the same time?"
"You resent it because the circumstances back then were partly so difficult because of our families and you resent the fact that they weren't more supportive. But you are guilty on walking out on your family and leaving them the way you did."
"Not financially. Emotionally." Ranveer stared at her helplessly, trying to end the argument, irritated that all of his attempts were going futile. Finally having had enough of it, Ranveer spoke plainly, hoping Ishaani got the cue now.
"This argument isn't going anywhere." Ishaani scrutinized his disturbed features and knew that the conversation had killed his mood. She let out a deep breath and nodded her head.
"It isn't. Look, it's completely upon you. Whatever you decide, I'll be fine with it." Ranveer nodded him head and both of them sat silently for the next fifteen minutes. Both of them sat deep in thought, contemplating what the other had spoken, before an ice-cream van crossed their view. Ranveer looked at Ishaani and asked her gently.
"Ice-cream?" Ishaani smiled, looking at the van happily, thankful for a pleasant intervention to cut the silence.
"Yep." Ranveer smiled back again, his features now relaxing smoothly, while asking gently.
Ranveer smiled and ran behind the ice-cream truck halting it successfully after a few moments. Ishaani stared at the sky as dusk sat across the horizon beautifully, still enough time for the sun to linger around for an hour. Ranveer returned back five minutes later, two cups of ice-cream in his hand. He handed over one to Ishaani while he swiftly took a spoon from his own cup. Ishaani took a spoonful of her own ice-cream before she gave out an appreciative sigh.
"My! This ice-cream is delicious! What flavor is this?" Ranveer smiled at he took another spoonful from the cup, before speaking delightfully.
"It's a mixture of lemon and orange." Ishaani smiled broadly, wondering how Ranveer knew what flavor she wanted to have, while speaking appreciatively.
"It's yum." Ranveer gave her a broad smile, speaking cheekily.
Evening fell quickly after and found Ishaani and Claudine chatting over some news on the TV, while Ranveer was working in the study room. Martin came home soon after, his expression a little pale, but otherwise fine. Claudine and Ishaani looked at him inquisitively as he plopped on the sofa tiredly, his briefcase falling beside him limply. He however, snapped his eyes open a moment later and sprang up from the sofa, as though shocked.
Ishaani rolled her eyes at him and caught Martin's mortified expression, before laughing. Claudine looked confused for a moment before it struck her and she shook her head in exasperation. Martin gave Ishaani a highly embarrassed and hopeless look, and Ishaani sobered down quickly.
"Seriously, Martin? I can't believe you still have this habit of being electrocuted." Martin noticed the sarcasm in Ishaani's tone and shook his head shamefully.
"Madame, you mock me." Ishaani now gave him a stern look, speaking not unkindly.
"No, I'm just telling you that if you sit on the sofa after a tired day because it feels at home, there is no need to get stunned as though you have committed a sin. You are now a part of our family and an economic analyst, not a butler, if that's any consolation."
"But Madame, that’s doesn't-"
"Oh Martin, drop it. Your Monsieur is stubborn enough without you joining him." Martin smiled at the mention of Ranveer and knew that Ishaani didn't want to pursue the topic any further. He was about to speak when a voice cut through from within the study room.
"Did someone mention me?" Ishaani looked in the direction of the room and yelled back in response.
"Oh yeah, we did. But don't fret, it's nothing important."
"Alright, I'll join you all in a minute." Ishaani rolled her eyes in his direction and both Martin and Claudine smiled, enjoying the better of Ishaani's hormonal changes. Ishaani looked at Martin suddenly, that caused the latter's smile to falter quickly, replacing it with a sober look. She signaled her hands in the direction of the seat he had occupied.
"Yeah. So Martin, relax and sit." Martin took a seat and smiled awkwardly, that made both Claudine and Ishaani smile at Martin's manners. The two women let him relax for a minute or two before Claudine spoke gently.
"As I was about to ask before this whole scene happened, why do you look so worried, mon cher? Is everything alright?" Martin looked at her deeply, replying dispiritedly.
"Yes... I mean no. The economy is getting from bad to worse daily. Then there were the riots that broke out in northern Athens today. Things look bad for business and the economy as the whole." Ishaani and Claudine both nodded their heads somberly, before Ishaani took a lead in the conversation.
"Claud and I just saw it on the news. We are talking about it when you came. How is your company doing?" Martin shrugged his shoulders, speaking truthfully.
"It's trying to sail through this, but the suction of the recession is very strong. If things continue the same way for the next three months, the company will have to close its branch over here." Ishaani clasped her hand over her mouth while Claudine stared at him anxiously.
"Good Lord! This is horrible!" Ishaani gave Martin a worried look while the latter smiled at her sadly.
"I'm just hoping for the best now."
"Yeah." Ishaani and Claudine gave Martin a reassuring smile and he nodded at them positively. Martin looked around the place before asking quizzically.
"He's with Ranveer."
"And the kids?"
"I'll go meet them and come." Ishaani and Claudine smiled at them happily before Martin made his way upstairs. The two women stared at each other in concern before Ranveer entered the living, Timmy following him happily. Timmy saw Ishaani sitting on the sofa and leapt happily into her lap, while Ranveer took a seat beside Ishaani.
"What was the din about?" Ishaani smiled, while stroking Timmy's back.
"Nothing much... Martin still hasn't overcome his 'springing up from the couch' fear." Ranveer slapped his hand on his forehead, and Ishaani and Claudine both chuckled.
"Oh boy, I was really hoping that he would have stopped doing this once he got the job." Claudine narrowed her eyes in his decision, her tone now taking on a mock-threatening demeanor.
"Ranveer-" began Claudine threateningly, while Ranveer raised his hands up in surrender. Claudine smiled.
"Alright, alright. Calm down. But on a serious note, you three were sounding worried. Is everything alright?" Both the women now had a worried look on their face, before Claudine spoke in a perturbed tone.
"Yeah, Martin was talking about the market conditions these days. I didn't know that things had become this bad," said Ishaani in a worried tone. Ranveer's expressions faltered, leaving behind a similarly troubled look.
"Trust me... you have no idea." Ishaani looked at Ranveer concerned, while she questioned him optimistically.
"Will things get alright?" Ranveer shrugged his shoulders, his expression weary.
"I don't know." Ishaani gave him a tensed look and Ranveer eased up considerably. He took her hand in his own before giving her a determined look. "Don't worry, I promise you that we'll get through this unscathed." Ishaani nodded her head reassuringly and Ranveer smiled. Ishaani set Timmy on the floor and let Ranveer envelope her, while Timmy sought refuge over Claudine's lap now.
"If you say so." Claudine smiled at the couple before she slowly made her way away from the hall, Timmy following her eagerly. Ranveer and Ishaani remained in the same position for some time before the two of them broke apart. Ranveer smiled at her, looking at her keenly.
"By the way, I haven't given you your gift for today." Ishaani gave him a guilty look as she spoke sincerely.
"Ranveer, you have got to stop pampering me like this." Ranveer pretended like he didn't hear her and Ishaani sighed. Seeing that she was ready for her gift, Ranveer smiled gleefully.
"Well, this gift is a little unusual. But I'm sure that you'll love it." Ishaani gave him a curious look that Ranveer shrugged off nonchalantly.
"Yes." Ishaani looked bewildered, while Ranveer now smiled from ear to ear.
"Well, what is it?" Ranveer smiled and placed an envelope in her hand. Ishaani emptied the contents of the envelope inquisitively and gasped. Out came two tickets and their passports.
"I'm taking you back home tomorrow."